State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2012IN335B
Title: Identifying Opportunities for Soil and Water Conservation With Indiana's County Surveyors and Drainage Boards
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2012
End Date: 2/28/2013
Congressional District: Entire State
Focus Categories: Agriculture, Conservation, Hydrology
Keywords: Drainage Water Management, Drainage Policy, Channelized Streams, Water Quality, Nonpoint Source Pollution, Diffusion of Innovation
Principal Investigators: Prokopy, Linda; Mullendore, Nathan
Federal Funds: $ 15,000
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 30,000
Abstract: Indiana's water quality and quantity problems have been widely recognized and documented. Since more than 70% of the state's total area consists of agricultural lands, a significant portion of conservation effort has focused on farmers and the management practices they can voluntarily adopt to protect soil and water resources. Comparatively less attention has been given to the structure and maintenance of the waterways themselves. Indiana contains tens of thousands of miles of “regulated drains” that are controlled by county surveyors and county drainage boards. These lower order streams represent biotic communities that comprise the headwaters of the state's many rivers and creeks. Traditional management, however, reduces these waterways to their most basic function as conveyances, ignoring their role in the ecosystem as hosts for biotic and abiotic processes that actively regulate the fate and transport of nutrients and farm chemicals. Novel techniques and practices such as two-stage ditches, controlled drainage structures, in-ground bioreactors, and constructed in-stream wetlands represent promising alternatives to traditional management approaches. Despite extensive development and research, many of these tools remain underutilized. Drainage water management inherently involves agreements and cooperation between multiple stakeholders with different missions and goals, a factor that contributes to slow diffusion of innovation. This project seeks to better understand the primary decision makers behind drainage water management. By exploring the attitudes, knowledge, and motivations of Indiana's county surveyors and drainage board members, insights will be gained into how these groups function and make management decisions, helping to foster new collaborations and earlier adoption of conservation technology

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